Doctor Sleep is not only a successful sequel to The Shining, it’s also one of the finest screen adaptations of a Stephen King novel to date.
Director Mike Flanagan – who helmed King flick Gerald’s Game and the impressive series The Haunting of Hill House – remains remarkably true to the source material while expertly folding the events of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining into the new narrative. And it all gels quite brilliantly.
Don’t expect Doctor Sleep to spend a majority of its 151-minute running time prowling the haunted corridors of the Overlook Hotel, however. Flanagan recreates the moments he needs from The Shining rather than using Kubrick’s footage and keeps fan service to a minimum, although a few familiar characters do show up.
There’s an entirely new and different story to be told here, one that concerns the now adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) and his connection with a 12-year-old girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), who shares his ability to ‘shine’.
The shine is strong in this one, making Abra a target for the True Knot – a nomadic cult of psychic vampires who feed on the ‘steam’ that’s released while torturing children with the shining, giving them a prolonged lifespan. When their leader, Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), discovers her whereabouts and moves in for the kill, Abra reaches out to Dan for help, raising ghosts from his own past that must be exorcised…
Doctor Sleep is actually at its best when focusing on this element of the story and letting the connection with its classic predecessor bookend the film. The narrative unfolds at a measured pace and is given plenty of breathing room, establishing its new mythology and affording as much screen time to its villains as its heroes. The True Knot present a genuine sense of threat and Ferguson is deliciously evil as Rose – a soul eater with the disarming demeanour of a New Age free spirit.
Ewan McGregor plays the grown-up Dan as a suitably haunted and damaged soul. The events at the Overlook have left him traumatised and a recovering alcoholic, who only uses the shining to ease the passing of terminally ill residents at the hospice where he works as an orderly, earning him the titular nickname.
Kubrick’s film is undeniably a masterpiece of horror, but by no means a faithful adaptation of King’s novel. Conversely, Doctor Sleep is not only a brilliant screen adaptation that captures the essence of King’s writing and characters, it’s arguably better than the book it’s based upon, thanks to Flanagan’s bold decision to reconcile the two Shining universes.
In cinemas: November 7, 2019
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Kyliegh Curran, Rebecca Ferguson
Directed by: Mike Flanagan